The cause of migraines is still not well understood - despite migraines being one of the most widespread chronic pain conditions. Migraines are blamed on many different factors including:
Family history of migraines
Foods, drinks, or additives
Changes in sleep pattern
Changes in environment
Whatever it is that causes your migraines, we know that the more often migraines occur, the better your brain gets at creating the pain experience again.
The patterns of a migraine attack can become ingrained and conditioned, to the point where migraines become chronic. Our brain and nervous system become sensitized to a potential threats, and that results in more pain more often.
This pain sensitization (also known as central sensitization) can occur anytime in life, although migraines are most common in the 30 to 40 age group. And at least 90% of people with migraines experience the first attack before the age of 40.
Pain sensitization can occur as early as childhood. In fact, there are now many studies (like this, this, and this) that show individuals who report having experienced adverse childhood events (such as neglect, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, or sexual abuse) are considerably more likely to experience migraines in adulthood than those who have had carefree childhoods.
As migraines become more ‘wired’, your brain can get stuck in a set of bad behaviors that sets off a migraine.
Let’s take this example. You might wake up a few hours early because of a barking dog. That gets you feeling groggy. You then realize what a busy day lies ahead of you. This combo of events sets off fear and expectation of a migraine.
Your brain responds to these thoughts and set of events the same way it has been for so long: with a migraine.
Pain researchers understand this well, but many patients and even some health professionals don’t.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. If you or someone you know is affected by migraines, there’s hope. The central sensitization process can be reversed – in part or completely. A variety of methods have been proven to work.
The first place to start is with easy-to-understand pain science education – knowing what’s really going on in your brain and body when you feel pain often leads to less pain anxiety, and therefore less pain.
The next step is to equip patients with proven tools and techniques that break the cycle of pain and relax the nervous system when it matters most.
When we change thoughts and behaviors we know increase pain, which often leads to a significant reduction in pain attacks long-term. Plus, there’s clinical evidence that all of the following also contribute to pain relief – from diaphragmatic breathing, mindfulness, meditation, self-help physio, exercise, and the list goes on. There is hope for pain patients.
Fear of, and fear-avoidance around a migraine, is absolutely natural, but it is also closely linked to the severity of a migraine – as per this study published in the Journal of Headache and Pain.
All the while, unfortunately, some medical professionals still solely rely on painkillers to help patients manage or reduce migraines. Despite evidence that mainstream drugs are no better than placebos, and overusing medication can actually worsen migraine symptoms.
Precision Pain Care and Rehabilitation has two convenient locations in Richmond Hill – Queens and New Hyde Park – Long Island. Call the Richmond Hill office at (718) 215-1888, or (516) 419-4480 for the Long Island office, to arrange an appointment with our Interventional Pain Management Specialist, Dr. Jeffrey Chacko.